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Art Index: Vik Muniz

Vik Muniz, a free-spirited Brazilian artist of the countercurrent, is internationally recognized for his work in photography that challenges the viewer's perception. His works fuse the sacred and they profane. They are made with antithetical materials such as diamonds, perforated paper, cotton, chocolate syrup, sugar, garbage, dust, caramel, jam, sawdust, and pins. This multiplicity of materials is meticulously processed to create images that reproduce masterpieces by masters of the past such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet, and Matisse. After this phase, the artist photographs the image and prints it in a limited number of copies using the Cibachrome technique, making photographs his final work. It is a mental reconstruction, of optical illusion, of reparation of reality. The idea is to use a variety of unconventional, everyday materials to recreate historical works of art that continually question our relationship with reality and memory.

Vik Muniz

Represented by Galeria Nara Roesler of São Paulo, Muniz is inspired by Brazil, the land of contrasts, a country where horror often marries grace, to begin his career achieving great success through a series of revolutionary projects whose artistic idea implements a plan of revaluation not only of unconventional materials, but also of the part of society identified as "human waste,” believing that art has the power to transform.

One of these projects, "Pictures of Garbage,” was the subject of the documentary "Waste Land,” nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Film category. It also contributed to his nomination as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. The film was shot in about three years inside Jardim Gramacho, the largest open-air landfill in South America, where Muniz met a group of catadores, the recyclable waste collectors, with whom he shared stories and experiences. They created artistic masterpieces using the garbage they dug together at Jardin Gramacho. The paradox of the artist's intuition lies in having pushed the wealthier classes of society, who usually have a contemptuous attitude towards garbage, to buy photographs of garbage, indirectly contributing to help the catadores association financially. In this regard, the series of shots that he reproduced —for example, David's “Death of Marat” or Botticelli's “Birth of Venus” — were highly appreciated at the 2018 Armory Show in New York, where the Nara Roesler gallery sold works between 35,000 and 50,000 euros, exhausting almost its entire portfolio of prints.

The Birth of Venus, after Botticelli (from Pictures of Junk), 2008

One of his latest major projects, "Shared Roots,” was commissioned by the champagne house Ruinart after a stay at the Maison de Reims. Ruinart has always had excellent relations with the art world, and every year for a decade now, they invite a contemporary artist to share their vision. In 2019, they gave carte blanche to the Vik Muniz, as his works continuously question the relationship between reality and the sense of memory. What struck him most was the series of relationships between man and nature, between winemakers and vineyards, and therefore between Ruinart and its deep attachment to the territory. And also the paradox of this place: the more difficult the weather conditions become, the more nature reacts, like a reflection of survival, giving life to a high quality product. After collecting and bringing a large amount of organic material into the studio, Vik Muniz has created six photographs, each of which is the result of a large composition of leaves, wood, and branches. The six works were exhibited at Miart in a dedicated corner and then at Art Basel, again in Ruinart's VIP lounge.

Vik Muniz is also represented by the historic New York gallery Sikkema & Jenkins & Co., which will dedicate a solo exhibition to him next October, taking up the social project and the artist's constant relationship between man, art, and nature. Muniz's works are also well represented at the auction, with award prices in line with the primary market: they range from €30,000 for small works to €100,000 for larger ones. In particular, last month Sikkema & Jenkins & Co. Gallery brought the masterpiece called "Wheat Field with Cypresses, after Van Gogh from Pictures of Magazines,” estimated at €44,000-62,000 and awarded it at €94,000, to Phillips in New York. Finally, Muniz participated in several Venice biennials and the 24 Bienal Internacional de Arte de São Paulo. His works have appeared at important institutional collections such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Tate Modern in London.

Auctions results

According to the site, the turnover for Muniz’s works has been estimated in $1 million with 46 lots sold, with a price evolution, compared to 2018, of 3.3%, and a percentage of sold lot of 52.6%.

His works are mostly bought in the US (72.2% in the past 10 years).

Upcoming public auctions:

Still Life with a Bouquet of Fruits, after Caravaggio, 2006

Chromogenic print/aluminum

Ed. 3 / 6

181.5 x 234 cm

Estimate: €18,000 - 25,000

Christie's 10 Nov 2020

Live & Online

9 avenue Matignon 75008 Paris, France Photographies Lot number 113 Illustrated on page 145 of the catalog


Signed dated

Pictures of wire series: Torero, 1991/92

Platinum print

37 x 37 cm

Starting price: €3,500

Artesegno Casa d'Aste 21 Nov 2020

Via Gervasutta, 29 33100 Udine, Italy International Modern and Contemporary Art Lot number 255



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